Petilla: Underground power wires costly

Posted at 07/17/14 6:58 PM

MANILA – After more than a thousand electric posts were toppled due to strong winds brought by typhoon "Glenda," should government install underground power lines in calamity-prone areas instead?

According to Energy Sec. Jericho Petilla, the Department of Energy (DOE) is still studying this option because it may prove costly not only to government and power distributors, but also to the public.

“It becomes a problem of cost,” he told dzMM on Thursday, a day after millions of Filipinos were plunged into darkness after power lines and transmission facilities went down due to rains and strong winds.

Some areas, particularly in southern Luzon, are still without power.

Petilla said he is still not convinced that installing underground distribution lines is the solution.

“Talaga bang solusyon ito, kasi kung titignan mo, mas mahirap mag-maintain ng underground. After 20 years, baka mas malaking problema ang haharapin ng kooperatiba. Mas madali ding nakawin kapag underground,” he said.

The DOE has embedded some 15 kilometers of power lines in Yolanda-hit Leyte to see if these “typhoon-resistant” lines can withstand future disasters.

“Nag-experimento tayo ngayon sa typhoon-stricken areas ng ‘Yolanda.’ Mayroon tayong 15 kilometers na binaon natin ang electric wire. Kaso ito ang problema: ang cost ng pagbabaon is about five times ng offset,” he said.

Petilla noted that installing underground power lines in populated areas, such as Metro Manila, may be too costly. For the project in Leyte, government is spending an estimated half a billion pesos.

The immediate aftermath of “Glenda” left more than half of Luzon without power, but Petilla said he expects power to be restored in most areas by Friday.

He said a big part of the Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, Rizal and Quezon (CALABARZON) region will have power by Friday.

Some areas in Sorsogon, Albay, Camarine Sur, and Camarines Norte are still without power.

Petilla said the power situation in these areas will fully normalize in two weeks while clarifying that some areas will already have power as soon as posts are repaired.

“Hindi ibig sabihin, wala kayong kuryente from now until two weeks,” he said.